- Review Date: 03/14/2012
- Bottom line:
The Canon PowerShot A4000 IS can capture sharp photos and has a nice 8x zoom lens. It keeps noise low at higher ISOs, but sacrifices a good amount of image detail in doing so.
Sharp photos. 8x zoom range. Optical image stabilization.
Slow to start up and recycle. Excessive noise reduction. Limited to digital zoom during video recording.
Under the right conditions, the Canon PowerShot A4000 IS ($199.99 direct) is a camera capable of capturing some very nice photos, although you'll quickly lose detail if you set its ISO too high. Its optically stabilized 8x zoom lens is impressive when you consider the under-$200 price, and the 16-megapixel camera can record video 720p30 HD video. It isn't as fast as more expensive point-and-shoots, like our Editors' Choice Canon PowerShot Elph 310 HS ($259.99, 4 stars), but it's a good choice if you're on a budget.
Design and Features
Despite its spot in Canon's entry-level A series, the A4000 boasts a metal body, which feels much more solid than competing cameras with plastic exteriors. Our review unit was silver, but the camera can also be had in blue, red, pink, or black finishes. It isn't as small as Canon's higher-end Elph cameras—it measures about 2.2 by 3.8 by 1 inches (HWD) and weighs in at 5.1 ounces. It's actually a bit larger than the flip-screen Samsung MV800 ($279.99, 2.5 stars), which comes in at 2.2 by 3.8 by 0.9 inches and weighs 4.3 ounces.
An 8x zoom lens, covering a 28-224mm (35mm equivalent) field of view, is a highlight here. It's versatile enough for group shots, but can also zoom in to bring distant objects into clear view. The A4000's 3-inch rear LCD is packed with a modest 230k dots. It's decent enough for reviewing photos, but pales in comparison to the 460k dot screens found on more expensive cameras like the Elph 310 HS .
The menu system should be familiar to anyone who has shot with a Canon point-and-shoot before, and is simple enough for a newcomer to navigate with ease. The camera is set to Auto mode by default, but if you require some more control over your shooting, you can switch to Program mode by hitting the green Auto button on the back of the camera. There is also a Function button, which lets you modify common shooting settings—including ISO, White Balance, and Exposure Compensation—when using the camera in Program mode. There are dedicated physical controls to active Macro mode, activate the flash, and record movies. It would be nice to have a button for Exposure Compensation, as that is a function that can help novice photographers with images—setting it to the plus side of zero makes an image brighter, and setting a negative value makes your photo darker.
Performance and Conclusions
The A4000 isn't the fastest camera in the world—but it is by no means the slowest. It can start up and shoot in 2.2 seconds, requires you to wait 1.4 seconds between shots, and records a modest 0.2 second shutter lag. It did manage to run circles around the sluggish Samsung SH100 ($199.99, 3 stars), a camera that needs 3.5 seconds to start and shoot, makes you wait 2.7 seconds between photos, and records a 0.5 second shutter lag.
I used Imatest to measure the sharpness of the A4000's lens, and found that the camera performed admirably. An image that scores 1,800 lines per picture height is considered sharp, and photos from the A4000 manage to hit 2,301 lines using a center-weighted testing metric. This is one area where the camera outshines our Editors' Choice Elph 310 HS, which managed 1,857 lines.
Imatest also measures the level of noise in photos. An excessive amount of noise—above 1.5 percent—can make photos look overly grainy. The A4000 keeps images under this threshold through ISO 800, but accomplishes this via some very heavy-handed noise reduction—a process which also saps detail from photos. It's a good idea to keep the ISO at 400 or below if you plan on printing photos or sharing them on high-resolution displays—the camera does a very good job balancing noise and image detail at that setting. Other compacts can do a better job with noise—the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH27 ($229.95, 2.5 stars) keeps noise under 1.5 percent through ISO 1600.
Video is recorded in 720p25 HD resolution in QuickTime format with iFrame compression. The quality is just ok. Footage is grainy, even under studio lighting, and the camera is limited to digital zoom while recording. It's best to zoom in as far as you can with the lens before starting a video, as the quality drops significantly with the digital zoom. The A4000 supports SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory, and features a standard miniUSB port to connect to a computer.
If you're on a budget, the Canon PowerShot A4000 IS isn't a bad camera—as long as you are aware of its limitations. Image quality is quite good as long as you keep the ISO set at 400 and below, which will require you to use the flash in poorer light. Its 8x zoom lens is versatile, giving it a leg up over cameras like the Samsung MV800 that feature more-limited 5x lenses. The A4000's video quality is nothing to write home about, but as long as you set your zoom before recording it will be adequate for sharing via Facebook and YouTube—just don't expect to use the camera to film a Speilbergian epic. Our Editors' Choice for mid-range compacts remains the Canon PowerShot Elph 310 HS, but that camera sells for $60 more. If your budget limits you to $200, you could do much worse than the A4000 IS.